Archive for Thursday, July 24, 2008

Respect card won’t work this year

July 24, 2008

It was easy for the Missouri and Kansas University football teams to play the "no respect" card in 2007.

Even when both teams steadily ascended in the national rankings and garnered a larger piece of the national spotlight, respect constantly was an issue.

Even when the Game Day crew showed up for a national broadcast before the No. 3-ranked Tigers upended the No. 2 Jayhawks, 36-28, at Arrowhead Stadium - when the Border War winner would put itself in position to contend for a national championship - respect was still an issue as it was presumed by many that Oklahoma would win the Big 12 Conference title game anyway.

Even when it came to bowl selection, respect was an issue. Missouri, with its top 10 national ranking and Big 12 North title, was left out of the BCS and shipped to Texas to play in the Cotton Bowl. Meanwhile, North runner-up Kansas received a hat-tip for its one-loss season by being chosen to the BCS' Orange Bowl, only to receive a rash of criticism for its lack of strength of schedule.

Only after it shellacked Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl was Missouri treated like it truly belonged in the discussion for a national title - for 2008, that is. Only after Kansas beat then-No. 3 Virginia Tech was Kansas accepted, although still begrudgingly by many, as a legitimate top 10 program.

To the credit of Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and KU's Mark Mangino, both played the "no respect" card to perfection. Both men made their squads feel like outcasts and underdogs, and their teams played with heavy chips on their shoulders. They parlayed that motivation into some of the best seasons in program history, and they made the Border War relevant on the national stage for the first time in decades.

The "no respect" act was great in 2007. It won't work this time around.

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel is a Heisman Trophy contender, and uber-talented Jeremy Maclin is among the league's most versatile scoring threats. Plus, the Tigers are considered the favorites to win their second straight North title, meaning they'd get another crack at the Big 12 title game and, possibly, another shot at playing for a national championship. If they survive a difficult opener against Illinois, they'll insert themselves permanently into the national title conversation.

As for Kansas, technically it could cry "no respect" again this year. After all, plenty of critics who called last year's schedule too easy now say this year's schedule is too tough. A trip to South Florida in week three won't be easy, and it'll be tough to get past Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech unscathed before closing out the regular season back at Arrowhead against Missouri.

So be it. That criticism is fair. Even with that being the case, a "no respect" cry from Kansas should not be taken seriously this year. It returns almost all of its starters from 2007, including the bulk of its receiving corps, the multi-talented Kerry Meier, underused and explosive running back Jake Sharp and quarterback Todd Reesing.

Respect has to be earned. Both Kansas and Missouri proved their value with their successes in 2007. Both have ample opportunities early in the 2008 campaign to prove they have staying power.

The results will speak for themselves. Crying "no respect" won't cut it.


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